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California Hiking Klamath Mountains Siskiyou mountains Trip report

Siskiyou Wilderness Days 3 & 4 – Raspberry Lake and Black Butte Trail 07/03-04/2022

After the long hike to Devil’s Punchbowl the day before (post) we were looking forward to a shorter hike on Sunday and having time in the afternoon to relax around camp before hiking out on the 4th. Our goal on this day was Raspberry Lake which sits below Preston Peak, the highest peak in the Siskiyou Wilderness. It had started to cloud up the day before but it hadn’t rained. A layer of fog however had settled over the meadow in Youngs Valley by early morning.
IMG_6035Fog at 5:30am

We hadn’t heard the bear overnight but we were still on high alert keeping an eye out for it. In fact I was so focused on looking for black fur that I didn’t notice a buck near where our food was hung and when he jumped it startled me half to death because I was less than 10 yards away from it.
IMG_6039After he jumped he started to run off but quickly stopped to eat just a few yards later.

The fog was burning off quickly as we ate breakfast and we did not see the bear again that morning.
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IMG_6042Deer in the meadow.

IMG_6043Snail near our breakfast spot. It’s amazing how quickly these guys can get from one place to the next.

After breakfast we secured our food and garbage and headed for the lake. We walked up the old road bed to the junction with the Raspberry Lake Trail and turned right.
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We followed the trail/old roadbed past the junction with the Poker Flat Trail which we had come down on our first day (post) and continued on the road for 2.5 miles to a fork near the former Cyclone Gap chrome mine.
IMG_6056Lupine and beargrass along the road.

IMG_6059Lupine

IMG_6060Beargrass

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IMG_6073Waterfall on cliffs below El Capitan.

IMG_6075Waterleaf

IMG_6078Stream crossing.

IMG_6080At times the old roadbed looked like you could drive on it but other times it looked like this.

IMG_6082Small meadow along the trail.

IMG_6089Western azalea

IMG_6091The clouds burned off quickly.

IMG_6100Penstemon

At the 1.5 mile mark we detoured slightly to a view point overlooking Youngs Valley near a ridge end.
IMG_6102Youngs Peak with the meadow barely visible to the right below.

IMG_6104Rocky Knob to the left.

As we rounded the ridge we got a good view up Clear Creek to Bear Mountain where we had been the day before visiting Devil’s Punchbowl.
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We ignored a side trail for Cyclone Gap shortly after rounding the ridge but when we reached the fork at the 2.5 mile mark we did detour to the right along a level roadbed to visit some of the mine ruins.
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IMG_6118Sign at the Cyclone Gap junction.

IMG_6124Back into the 2018 Natchez fire scar.

IMG_6127Preston Peak

IMG_6129Paintbrush along the trail.

IMG_6135Streambank bird’s-foot trefoil

IMG_6142Musk monkeyflower

IMG_6145Raspberry Lake Trail to the left.

IMG_6146Ruins from the chrome mine.

IMG_6147More mine ruins on the hillside below.

We returned to the trail and followed it uphill above the old mine where the roadbed ended. The trail became narrow and rocky as it rounded another ridge end. Here we ran into the couple that we had spoken with at Doe Creek the day before. They had hiked up the Rattlesnake Meadow Trail which they reported was quite overgrown and then followed a ridge cross-country up to Raspberry Lake which they did not recommend.
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IMG_6155Nuttall’s sandwort

IMG_6156Bear Mountain and Rocky Knob.

IMG_6157Chipmunk

IMG_6160Getting closer to Preston Peak.

IMG_6162Ragwort

IMG_6167Small stream crossing.

IMG_6169A short steep rocky section where cairns were helpful.

IMG_6170Rounding another ridge with Preston Peak on the left and Bear Mountain to the right.

IMG_6172First view of Raspberry Lake in the trees below to the right.

A series of steep switchbacks led down to the lake.
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There were a few tents set up around the lake so we didn’t do a lot of exploring. Our timing wasn’t great as the Sun was positioned slightly to the left behind the lake which still lay in the mountains shadow which made it very difficult to photograph.
IMG_6194Big rock along the shore.

It was a nice lake but not nearly as dramatic as Devil’s Punchbowl had been. After a short break here we headed back looking forward to some extra rest and relaxation at the less crowded meadow in Youngs Valley.
IMG_6200Bell catchfly

IMG_6205Douglas’ Dustymaidens

IMG_6225El Capitan on the right. To the left I think that is Bear Cub with Polar Bear Mountain behind.

IMG_6232Western azalea

IMG_6242This squirrel gave us a stern talking to.

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IMG_6214Western tanager pair

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IMG_6247Twin Peaks

IMG_6264We believe this is what Sullivan shows as Slow Echo Camp on his map. We wondered what the stones in the foreground had been a part of?

The waterfall we had seen was near the camp and I set off into the brush to see if I could get a better view. It partially worked.
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Near the other small campsite we encountered a buck which may have been the same one that startled me back near our camp earlier based on how comfortable he was with us being there.
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When we arrived back at the meadow our neighbors had moved on but we did run into a grouse.
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The hike to the lake and back came in at 8 miles even with approximately 1750′ of elevation gain.

Day 3 Track in Green

After putting things away we set up our lightweight chairs near the meadow and watched the ever changing clouds. It wasn’t long before we noticed other hikers/backpackers across the meadow following the road down from the Youngs Valley Trailhead. We also spotted Buster (the name we’d given the bear) lumbering through the meadow again.
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In fact Buster passed through the meadow twice going in the same direction which led us to wonder if there was more than one Buster in the area (or a glitch in the Matrix). The bear didn’t seem to care that another group had set up a tent on the opposite side of the meadow and was similarly unimpressed when another couple arrived with their dog. We heard the dog bark and wondered if it was at Buster and when the couple passed by us on their way to finding a site they confirmed that the dog was barking at the bear and that it didn’t phase it one bit. They also mentioned that a friend of theirs had stayed there the week before and seen the bear around. Fortunately it appeared that everyone had proper bear proof systems in place, i.e. bear canisters, ursacks and/or bag hanging systems. Hopefully people continue to be responsible because it only takes one careless person leaving food out or in their tent for the bear to figure out that people have food. So far even though it wasn’t nearly as wary of people as most black bears are it didn’t show any signs of equating people with having food (not being food, those are grizzly bears lol). If that happens it typically means the bear will be put down.

IMG_6306This butterfly did discover people=salt.

IMG_6311Maybe a flycatcher of some sort near camp.

IMG_6319Common buckeye

IMG_6321Turkey vulture checking out the meadow.

We did do a little exploring in the area and found a few flowers nearby that we’d missed the day before.
20220703_153845White rush lily

IMG_6326Ginger

20220703_181554Snow plant

Both of the new groups of backpackers had dogs but aside from the initial barking at Buster we didn’t hear either of them again which we took to mean the bear kept its distance overnight. In the morning we got an extra early start for our hike out managing to have coffee and breakfast, pack up and still be on the trail by 6:15am.
IMG_6332Another low cloud morning.

IMG_6333Heading out

We followed the old road bed past the Raspberry Lake Trail junction half a mile to another trail junction, this one with the Black Butte Trail.
IMG_6337Passing around the meadow, we didn’t see Buster this morning.

IMG_6341Black Butte Trail junction.

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We turned right onto this trail which was also an old road bed and followed it a little over half a mile to the East Fork Illinois River.
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IMG_6350Bear Cub under the clouds.

IMG_6353Vanilla leaf along the trail.

IMG_6357Jessica sticktight

IMG_6358The headwaters of the East Fork Illinois River are just up from the trail so the river isn’t much more than a trickle at the trail crossing.

On the other side of the river we ignored the East Fork Illinois Trail to the left and continued on the old road bed.
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IMG_6371The edge of the clouds to the NW.

IMG_6377Passing below Bear Cub.

IMG_6382Being an old road bed in unburt forest made for easy hiking.

Going into the weekend there had been a chance of showers both Sunday and Monday. Sunday had remained dry but today a light mist was falling and there were a couple of brief showers which were enough to prompt us to put the rain covers on our packs but not enough to don our rain gear.
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When we had made it to the north side of Bear Cub (Sullivan refers to it as Polar Bear Cub) we were momentarily confused by the number of trails our GPS units were showing. Sullivan’s map only showed an unmaintained use trail heading right toward the mountain while our paper Forest Service map didn’t show any other trails, but the GPS topo showed Sullivan’s user trail and another trail heading slightly downhill to the left. What we were seeing was the old roadbed curing right toward Bear Cub and a trail with cairns on both sides heading straight.
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The existence of the third trail on the GPS had us questioning whether the trail marked by cairns was the Black Butte Trail or the left most trail showing on the Garmin. After some debate we decided that it must be the Black Butte Trail and passed between the cairns. This turned out to be the right choice and we soon found ourselves climbing through the 2020 Slater fire scar.
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IMG_6391Swtichbacking toward Bear Cub.

IMG_6396Black Butte

We were a bit disappointed when we realized that to reach the junction with the Black Butte Tie Trail below Black Butte we had to lose about 100′ of elevation first.
IMG_6399Heading downhill so we could go up.

IMG_6402Creek crossing in the basin below Black Butte.

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IMG_6411Looking back into the clouds where we’d come from.

IMG_6412Steep climb up to the junction.

IMG_6413We made it back to the junction! Only 1.8 more miles to go.

We turned left at the junction, now following the route that we’d come in on from the Black Butte Trailhead on the first day. We had both convinced ourselves that this stretch would be mostly downhill, but we had been deceived.
IMG_6418Spirea

IMG_6419Pair of woodpeckers

IMG_6428Why is there more uphill?

IMG_6440Black Butte from the trailhead with Heather coming down the trail.

It was 5.6 miles from our camp to the trailhead but after some challenging hikes it felt harder than that. The nearly 1400′ of elevation gain didn’t help that, but it had been a great trip none the less.

Day 4 Track in blue

The most significant rain shower started as we were changing at the trailhead so the timing there was pretty good. The trip had been challenging but it was worth it to have the chance to experience a new area with such diverse plants and great scenery. The wildlife was a bonus although a little less bear would have been okay.

What wasn’t good was the low tire pressure light that came on almost immediately after starting our drive. We had the same light come on in June driving up to the Siskiyou Gap Trailhead (post) and taken the car to Les Schwab in Ashland for an air check. The two left side tires were just a little low then so they added some air and we were off. Today was the 4th though and the Les Schwab stores in Grants Pass (the closest to where we were) were closed for the holiday so we pulled into a gas station and checked the air at their self-serve station. The same two tires were again a little low so I topped them off and we drove home. The light was back Tuesday morning when I started my drive to work prompting a trip to Les Schwab in West Salem where they removed the tires and discovered a screw in the rear tire and a nail in the front. Luckily both were small leaks and repairable. Hopefully we’re done with that light for a long while now. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Raspberry Lake / Youngs Valley To Black Butte Trailhead

Categories
Hiking Klamath/Siskiyou Mountains Oregon Trip report

Oregon Caves National Monument

We’d slept well after our dinner in the Dining Room of the Chateau at the Oregon Caves and woke ready for the final hikes of our vacation. We had reserved tickets for the 10am cave tour so we had plenty of time to eat breakfast at the cafe, explore a little of the historic district, and work on the puzzle sitting out in the Chateau’s lobby.
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We checked in at the Visitor Information Center at 9:30 and picked up our tickets. The cave tours are limited in size to 15 people and can fill up quickly during the busy summer months, but on this day there would only be 8 of us on the tour. Like the rest of the Siskiyou Mountains the area began as part of the Pacific Ocean seafloor that was later lifted by the North American Plate as it scrapped over the ocean bottom. The Oregon Caves are mostly made up of marble which was formed by the “skeletons” of marine organisms. Later the caves formed as rainwater from the ancient forest above dissolved the surrounding marble and created a special marble cave system.

The tour was led by a ranger who let us know that bats had begun to settle into the cave for the coming winter months and not to use camera flashes where bats were present. We passed several small bats near the entrance to the cave clinging to the rocks.
Bat above the path toward the right hand side of the picture.
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Harvester spider in the gray triangle (upper left) and a bat directly ahead and above.
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Lights in the cave made it possible to get some pictures without needing a flash so I experimented with and without using one with varying degrees of success.
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Our favorite part of the tour was a side trip up to a room called Paradise Lost which is only part of the tour when time allows. Luckily we were making good time and the ranger led us up the stairs and into the room.
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Near the cave exit we were asked if anyone was deathly afraid of spiders. Harvester spiders had also begun moving into the cave and forming clumps on the walls and ceiling.
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The tour lasts 90 minutes and covers about a mile including the .3 mile walk back down to the Visitor Center after exiting the cave.
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In addition to the cave tour the monument offers a number of other hiking opportunities and we planned on checking out the Big Tree Loop before leaving.
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The highlight of the Big Tree Loop is a 14′ diameter Douglas Fir, the widest known to exist in Oregon. The trail gains a good deal of elevation over a fairly short distance making it a moderate hike.
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As we climbed through the forest we spotted several birds including an owl that silently flew by and landed in a tree ahead of us.
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Big Tree may not have been as large as some of the redwoods we’d seen at the beginning of our vacation but it’s size was more emphasized due to the much smaller surrounding trees.
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After a little more climbing we began descending back down toward the Visitor Center. Just over 1.5 miles from Big Tree we arrived at a junction with the Cliff Nature Trail.
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We faced the choice of turning right and ending our hike back at the Visitor Center in .3 miles or taking the Cliff nature Trail .4 miles past a viewpoint and then down to the Cave Exit for the additional .3 miles to the parking area. We chose the nature trail. 🙂

We climbed to the viewpoint and discovered we were not alone.
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We were nearing the end of our trip and we’d seen an amazing variety of animals during the 7 days, but one we had not seen was any black-tail deer. We had expected to see at least one in the Red Buttes Wilderness but had not and we hadn’t even seen one while driving to our various destinations. As we were coming down the paved path from the cave exit for the second time at a switchback there stood a deer.
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It had taken over 80 miles of hiking but there in the last quarter mile were two black-tail deer. They looked up at us and then went back to grazing as we passed by.
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We headed home both tired and refreshed. It had been a wonderful trip full of unique sights and beautiful scenery and was a perfect way to wrap up our main hiking season for 2015. We’ll scale back to one a hike month for a while so Heather can focus on her running and I can work on next years adventures. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157660617381321